Great Conversation

As you saw in the cover story of the winter issue of Areté, it was twenty years ago that Jane Cizik (’83, Spanish and Honors College Advisory Board Chair) and Honors College founding dean Ted Estess embarked on a journey that would simultaneously raise scholarship funds for the Honors program and awareness of the exceptional leadership and faculty that Honors—and the University—has to offer.

Each year, the event has set new standards, raising more money and expanding the scope of the conversations. This year was no exception. Chaired by Deborah Brochstein and Connie Simmons Taylor (’91, English), and honoring Jane Cizik, the 20th anniversary event brought together over 350 people in conversation on March 28 at the Houston Country Club. Attendees feasted on 36 conversations about fashion, India, politics, art, culture, and architecture. The evening’s lively emcee, advisory board member Steve Smith , kept the opening ceremonies right on schedule before assuming his duties as a conversationalist. 

Ted Estess, Jane CizikThe crowd celebrated the generosity of the underwriters, who raised a record $250,000 for student scholarship support. The Honors College Advisory Board also supported the event in a big way, with 100 percent of the members donating to support the event, solidifying the importance of the College’s primary annual fundraiser. 

While guests enjoyed their meals and colloquia, President and Chancellor Renu Khator , resplendent in a traditional sari, and Dean Bill Monroe made their way through the rooms to greet each guest and enjoy the lively discussions. As the night drew to a close, Steve Smith again took to the podium to thank the guests for their thoughtful and engaged participation in the night’s discussions.

The Honors College staff published an anniversary book, 20 Years of Great Conversations, as a special memento of the evening. The book included photos from all 20 years of the event, as well as letters from Cizik, Monroe, Estess, alumna Delaine Foss (’94, English), and Honors professor Dr. Cynthia Freeland , showing how the event brings together the town and the gown, the students and the faculty, and the past and the future. The book also provides a record of—and gratitude for—the event chairs, supporters, donors, and conversationalists who have made the past 20 years of the event a template and an inspiration for the gala’s next 20 years. 

This year’s event garnered some media coverage, with photographs and stories in CultureMap, the University of Houston Magazine, and Houston Lifestyles & Homes magazine. We hope this coverage continues to help us increase interest in the event throughout the community, bringing more new people into the long-running, successful experiment that is The Great Conversation. After all, The Great Conversation draws its name from, and embodies the overarching goals of, the Honors College: to foster thoughtfulness about and care for the world by engaging people in disciplined conversation about things that matter. 

Fall Alumni Events

Make plans now to attend our fall alumni events. In August, the Honors College sponsors the annual Fall Convocation. Held on August 30, this event launches the academic year for the entire campus. As always, we invite all Honors alumni to meet our incoming students during the event and to join us at The Den afterward.

Homecoming 2012 is on November 10. Mark your calendars and watch for more details about the Honors Homecoming events, coming soon.

On October 4 and December 6, the Alumni Association will sponsor social events—stay tuned to the alumni web site at for details and news of other events.

Finally, please save the date for next year’s Great Conversation, to be held on March 27, 2013.